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Future-proofing Scotland’s SME manufacturing industry

By Jillian MacBryde - Posted on 5 February 2013

Dr Jillian MacBryde, Vice Dean of Knowledge Exchange explains why a new EU funded project will be good news for Scotland’s SME manufacturing sector…

Employing around 180,000 people and worth more than £12bn a year to the Scottish Economy, it’s fair to say that the manufacturing sector matters. With the prospect of a triple-dip recession in 2013 still a possibility, the role of manufacturing remains centre stage. This is an important industry which can help drive growth, mainly through its capacity to export. In these challenging times it’s now more important than ever before to support our business base as the economy looks to try and regain momentum and grow in 2013 and beyond.

The issue of how to support manufacturing has been central to a major research project we’ve been involved with at Strathclyde Business School. The €8 million ‘Future SME’ project was funded by the EU’s ‘Framework 7’ programme – an umbrella fund for research projects. Beginning in 2009, the three year project aimed to provide SMEs in the manufacturing sector with the tools to help them to grow and stay competitive.

The end result, a new web portal is now live. The site’s main aim is to help entrepreneurs develop business models and perhaps more importantly, to find funding. We know it’s relevant because the system has already been tested by SMEs who have told us about their experience and given feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland say around 48% of their members export goods. The main risks cited in connection with exporting were general cost of reaching export markets, foreign currency volatility and the lag between supply and payment. These are all issues which we recognise from our research which identified a number of issues which we felt needed to be addressed.
The figures told us that other than access to funds businesses needed: help to identify opportunities in emerging markets; to be confident enough to exploit opportunities and manage risk; targeted support to encourage new manufacturing start-ups; and be able to identify research which helped them make the right decisions as they developed.

We are partnering the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service to engage with manufacturing SMEs and support their development. We will be marketing the web service as the first port of call for any manufacturing SME aspiring to improve performance and grow. Any companies interested in joining the Future SME capability development programme should get in contact here with a new programme starting mid February.

Do you think this resource might be something you would use? Perhaps you have already used the portal? Let us know if you found the experience useful.

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